Back Hurt? It Could be Time for a Standing Desk

Back pain is a real problem for office workers and frequent computer users. Desks that let you work while standing help relieve back strain and are gaining popularity, according to CIO.com blogger Bill Snyder, who spotlights two noteworthy standing desks.

My back has really been bothering me lately. The pain probably has something to do with the fact that I spend hours every day sitting at a computer, and, I admit, I am a man of a certain age known for his crummy posture. I recently went to a physical therapist, and one of her first recommendations was to consider buying a standing desk. Yes, it can be expensive, she said, but it really can make a difference.

So I started looking around. Turns out, June, the PT, was right. Standing desks are expensive. They can also require a major reconfiguration of your office space.

A company called UpDesk, which, as its name implies, sells standing desks, was recently in San Francisco showing off some new products. I stopped by to take a look and was impressed.

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UpDesk showed me a new model, the UpWrite, that combines a traditional desktop with a white board. It's a bit strange, but also kind of cool. I like to doodle when I’m on conference calls, and now and then I pick up the phone when my PC is off and I want to scrawl a number or take a note or two.

But that’s not the point. Standing is good for your back, but sometimes you just want to sit. In fact, it’s probably better for your back to vary position now and then. UpDesk lets you do that.

The company offers several models. The real dividing line when it comes to price is whether the desk lifts by hand with a crank or with a motor. Doing it by hand saves you a few hundred dollars, but I'm not sure just how difficult it is. (I didn't get to see the manual version.) The motorized version goes up and down quietly, and it has a few presets for different heights.

The UpDesk is pricey, but I did some shopping around on the Web, and UpDesk pricing is not at all out of line when compared to similar desks from other makers. (You can check out the company's site to see exact pricing.) A 48 x 30 inch motorized standing desk costs $899; the UpWrite version, which is bigger, goes for $1149.

The desks are heavy, so shipping costs more than $100. And you may well want to add some features, like a keyboard tray, or have the company drill holes in the desk for wires. The accessories are too expensive, in my opinion, given the overall cost of a unit plus shipping.

You'll want to be sure your office has enough room before you order. The desk elevates itself as high as 50 inches (you could put a treadmill under it) so be sure it won’t bump into shelving or an overhead light.

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People who don't want to spend that much on a new desktop or who want to keep an existing desk could be interested in another product I found. It’s called the Kangaroo, from a company called Ergo Desktop. The device sits on a desk and raises your monitor and keyboard so you can work while standing. I didn’t try it, but it looks interesting, and it is reasonably affordable.

One concern: Standing in front of a desk that has a straight edge, which most do, could force you to lean forward a bit when working. (The UpDesk is curved, so that’s not an issue.)

If you have experience with standing desks or you find a better deal, please share with me and the rest of our readers.

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